Previous to Spanish exploration and colonization, the land which is
now called Mariposa County, was peopled by the Miwuk people. Their encampments
ranged from the Sierra foothills through the upper reaches of Yosemite
National Park where they existed in relative peace until European colonization
of the area began.
The first Europeans to explore the land came from the Spanish colony
of Mexico. Those first explorers discovered a creek meandering through
a gentle valley and all around it swarmed butterflies. That intrepid
explorer named the place "Arroyo de las Mariposas" which roughly translated
means stream of butterflies. Eventually, the name "Mariposa" stuck.
1846, Thomas Larkin, American Council in Monterey, purchased from the Mexican
governor the 44,000 acre land grant for his client, John C.Fremont. The
Grant, a "floating" land grant, had no specific boundaries which led to
shifting property claims. After statehood, Fremont spent six years trying
to get the land grant recognized under American laws. In 1856, he received
such legitimization but the property boundaries again shifted during this
process setting off a flurry of legal actions until resolution was finally
The "official" formation of Mariposa County occured in 1850 after California
achieved statehood. The county originally covered over one-fifth of California.
Since that time, all or part of 11 counties have been created earning the
county the nickname the "Mother of Counties."